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Hun Sen shoots down free-visa plan

120705_07a
Hun Sen speaks during a Tourism Ministry meeting at the Chaktomok Conference Hall in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday shot down calls for a free visa system for all ASEAN + 3 nations.

The proposal would have included the ASEAN nations as well as China, Japan and South Korea.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon made the proposal during a Tourism Ministry meeting at the Chaktomok Conference Hall in Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian government has already produced a framework on free visas for all ASEAN nations other than Brunei and Myanmar.

Questions remain over how Cambodia will deal with the “+3” countries in terms of visa status.

“We cannot exempt them [Japan, South Korea and China]” Hun Sen said during the meeting.

“For instance, if we offer free visas for country A and they do not offer free visas to us, how should we respond?”

“Then country B will make the same request: because we offered free visas to country A, why not country B?”

The Prime Minister said that if Cambodia could come to a reciprocal agreement with the three regional neighbours, he would okay the plan.

“We should not only look at the ASEAN + 3 nations, we should look into the whole jungle,” he said.

Revenue from visas would diminish, forcing the tourism sector to drain the national revenue, Hun Sen said.

The amount of revenue that would be lost from a free ASEAN + 3 visa system would not be small, he said.

In fact, Hun Sen said, a free visa system for the “+ 3” nations could end up costing Cambodia millions of dollars in revenue.

Thong Khon could not be reached for comment.

The ASEAN + 3 nations were countries with large populations, and offering them a free-visa system when they did not offer one in return would result in a loss of revenue, Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia’s Association of Travel and Agents, said.

The number of tourists from ASEAN + 3 sharply increased.

Tourists from Korea rose 35.2 per cent, supplying the second-largest number of tourists to Cambodia after Vietnam.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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